12234 Harris Street Carleton, Michigan 48117-9501
I had seen this tractor for eleven years from the expressway overpass; it was quite a distance away and I could not tell what type it was, only that it was a small tractor. At that time, I was not in the hobby, but after being involved for about five years, I remembered the tractor but I never took the time to check it out.
On a pedal bike outing with the family, we were riding on the path next to the expressway not far from where the tractor was. Stopping for a short rest, I decided to ride over and take a quick look. Going over the railroad tracks and up a small hill, there I stood at the edge of the field where it sat. A fence kept me about 50 feet from it. On the ride over, I had dreams it could be a Gibson, wouldn't that be neat, riding a Gibson around at engine shows? But, what I saw looked like someone's attempt to make a homemade tractor, and not a good one. I thought, what a pile of junk! After getting back to the family, they asked what kind it was and I said it was something homemade.
When we arrived home, unloaded the truck, I went into the house. At that time I had borrowed a large pile of Gas Engine Magazines from a friend, Parks Johnson. There on the cover of the top book was the tractor I had just seen in the field. I just stood there dumbfounded. Finally I picked up the magazine, found the story and I found out what type it was, a Grand Haven made in Grand Haven, Michigan. So, what did I do? I simply drove back and asked the owner if I could take a better look.
Now, being able to take a better look, I still thought it was a pile of junk. The only difference was, now I wanted to buy it. It was hard to tell what was missing or not. The engine and trans were there, and three tires. So I had to ask, was it for sale and he said yes, but there was a hitch. A friend of his wanted first crack at it if he was ever going to sell it. I went back a month or so later and for $45.00 the Grand Haven was all mine. BIG DEAL! Where do I put it? My garage was full, so it was stored at my mother's.
In the weeks and months that followed, the engine was removed, then brought home to see it if could be repaired. The weather had turned cold, so with the aid of a hair dryer the trans was drained. Naturally water, mud, and oil came out. The engine, a Briggs and Stratton ZZ, about 6 HP, I gave no hope for, because the spark plug was missing. I just assumed everything inside would be rusted beyond repair. But to my surprise when the engine was disassembled, everything inside looked good, cylinder was smooth, new valves, even the oil was clean! The carburetor was in very rough condition. I was never able to make it work right. The lower part of the engine air shroud was badly rusted and a quick patch job was done, to be able to run the engine. It started easily and ran well.
Repair on the trans was a good clean-out. The shift plate needed some work, the shift forks were bent, and a tooth was missing from the first gear set. I did nothing to the damaged gear at that time. When it came time to fix the clutch, I was at a complete loss. The twin disc clutch has a lot of small parts, and most were missing or broken. Someone, I can't remember who, sent me some information on the tractor. On the paper work there was a penciled-in phone number on the page for clutch parts. I called that number and the fellow on the other end said they had the parts I needed. I was a happy guy!
Everything was put back together. The tires didn't match, and very little paint, but I didn't care. I took it to all the shows, put it in the parades and let anybody drive it that wanted to. Now a friend of mine, Mark Schuon, was after me for years to restore it but I liked it the way it was. Well, that was the first time in ten years that I didn't have an engine to work on, and I decided to fix up the Grand Haven.
When I started the job to restore the tractor, most of the repair work was already done. The only thing that did need a lot of work was the trans, something had to be done with that missing first gear tooth. The damaged gear was welded up and a new tooth made. The only trouble was, when I was taking it apart the pinion gear nut was damaged. Too large a hammer, I guess. I could not find a replacement. A tap to repair it was going to cost $26.
One of our club members was cleaning out his barn. He was selling and donating things to the engine club for our tailgate sale. At his barn I was shown an old snow blower with a large Wisconsin engine. I was pulling the weeds out of the way for a better look. To my surprise, the trans was the same as my tractor, so for $ 15 we loaded it up. I took the best parts of both to make one good trans.
The paint work was not too bad. The sheet metal needed repairs and I had to do a better job on the engine shroud. I broke down and bought a new set of tires and tubes. They were mounted and installed on the tractor, as well as new tires and paint job. Man, that really looks good! Only one rear tire went flat.
So, why am I joyed and delighted? I am joyed every time I pull the rope and it starts and stays running. And I am delighted when I climb up into the seat and drive it around under its own power. Some would say, what's the big deal, that's what it's supposed to do. Well, anyone who has been around this old stuff knows it has a mind of its own. Just because it's supposed to do something, that doesn't mean it will. So when it does work, I am JOYED and DELIGHTED!